Appearance-Based Discrimination Is Costing the U.S. $501 Billion a Year, According to New Report

It’s no secret that consumers spend billions of dollars per year on products and treatments they believe will improve their appearance. But as a new study frames it, mainstream beauty ideals aren’t just fueling an industry — they’re fueling a multi-billion-dollar public health crisis.

For instance, lots of people struggle with some form of body dysmorphic disorder — roughly 1.7% of the population, according to one Cambridge study — yet the impact of pervasive body image issues on society at large has been mostly been overlooked due to a lack of quantifiable data. The new Real Cost of Beauty Ideals Report, commissioned by personal care brand Dove and conducted by Harvard University’s Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders: A Public Health Incubator (STRIPED) with support from Deloitte Access Economics, seeks to correct that fact. The initiative offers a first step toward building a body of research that attaches concrete numbers to toxic beauty ideals in the United States.

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